Celebrating Septima Poinsette Clark

Posted By Bill Payer on Feb 25, 2023 | 0 comments

Septima Poinsette Clark was a seminal figure in America’s Civil Rights evolution. Martin Luther King, Jr. called her the “mother of the movement.” And although there’s a crosstown expressway named after her that doesn’t do much to inform or share her legacy. The College of Charleston unveiled a mural and exhibit dedicated to Clark at the Septima Clark Auditorium inside the Education Center that goes a long way toward telling her story.

“Many achievements of Charleston native, educator and activist Septima Poinsette Clark (1898-1987) took place at locations on and near the College of Charleston campus. Clark was born at 105 Wentworth Street in 1898 (now part of the CofC campus) and was a student and later a teacher at the Avery Normal Institute (now the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture at the College of Charleston) at 125 Bull St. In 1978, the College, during a ceremony in the Cistern Yard, awarded Clark an honorary doctorate in humane letters for 40 years of work as an educator, civil rights leader and advocate for the underprivileged.

In 2021, CofC’s President’s Historical Review Task Force formed the Committee for Commemoration and Landscapes (CCL) to tell a more complete and inclusive story of the institution’s past. One of the committee’s first initiatives was to interpret Septima Clark’s legacy as an educator, leader and activist, using text panels, images, archival documents, maps and a guided virtual tour.

“We’re eager for College of Charleston students to understand some of the great achievements of Septima Clark, who was called ‘the mother of the Civil Rights Movement,’” says CCL co-chair Julia Eichelberger, director of Southern studies and Marybelle Higgins Howe Professor of Southern Literature. https://today.cofc.edu/2023/02/20/cofc-celebrates-life-of-activist-septima-clark-with-new-exhibit-mural/“Not only was she an incredible educator and leader, but she overcame significant obstacles throughout her life. Students should be inspired by the way Clark surmounted these obstacles and made positive changes that many people believed were impossible. Her determination and her ability to get things done are tremendously inspiring.” To read the entire posting onThe College Today website CLICK HERE.

There’s also an extensive article in Saturday’s Post & Courier that describes the mural….”The mural is mounted in the foyer, on the right side, and features a large portrait of Clark in profile along with what is perhaps her most famous quote, which comes from a speech she gave in 1970: ‘I believe unconditionally in the ability of people to respond when they are told the truth. We need to be taught to study rather than to believe, to inquire rather than to affirm.’

Inside the auditorium, which is often used as a large classroom, information panels are mounted along the right side, dividing her life into 10 periods and connecting her to specific places in Charleston, Gilmore said. Online content complements the panels, providing access to essays about Clark, oral history interviews and a variety of primary sources.”

To read the entire P&C article CLICK HERE. Non-subscribers will encounter a paywall.

Clark is one of three local women along with Gertrude Legendre (Gertie), and Martha Daniell Logan .that Beth Bush and Lee Ann Bain will highlight at our March 21 meeting Learn lots more about all three by clicking here.

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